research clipboardObstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can create the same early cardiovascular damage as diabetes, according to research presented at this week’s EUROECHO and other Imaging Modalities 2012 congress, the annual meeting of the European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging (EACVI).

Investigators assessed endothelial and arterial function in 20 patients with moderate to severe OSA who did not have diabetes, along with 20 patients with treated type 2 diabetes mellitus; 20 healthy patients were used as controls.

All five parameters of arterial stiffness were significantly higher in the OSA and diabetes mellitus groups compared to controls. Flow mediated dilatation (FMD) was lower in these groups, meaning they had poorer endothelial function than controls. The authors believe this suggests OSA is associated with a high risk for cardiovascular disease.

The study, “Obstructive sleep apnea determines endothelial dysfunction and increased arterial stiffness, similarly with diabetes mellitus” (abstract 50318), was presented by Raluca Mincu from Bucharest, Romania.

“Patients should realize that behind snoring there can be a serious cardiac pathology and they should get referred to a sleep specialist. If they are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, they are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease and need to adopt a heart healthy lifestyle to reduce that risk,” said Mincu. “Our study is a signal for cardiologists, pneumologists, and general practitioners to work together to actively diagnose obstructive sleep apnea, administer the appropriate treatment (CPAP), and assess arterial function. This will help avoid progression of early cardiovascular dysfunction through to heart failure, the final stage of heart disease.”